Stay at home orders have impacted so much of our daily habits, work life, family life, and social life, to name only a few. With such circumstances comes changes in access to food, availability of food, challenges in food shopping, cooking and more. As dietitians, we are here to help.
First off, there is current misconception that certain foods or supplements will keep you safe from contracting COVID-19. There are several headlines or marketing tactics boasting immune boosting benefits or other health claims. It is important time to educate or remind the public that nutrition is a synergistic science part of a larger lifestyle. Health is impacted by cumulative effects, not one magic bullet. The importance of a balanced diet does not go away in times of pandemic. Neither does sleep, exercise, mental health, stress management, social connection, hydration, hand washing, and so on. All of these behaviors provide protective effects in maintaining good immune function, including now.
Staying at home is important for public health right at the current moment, and a common question I’m getting is how to continue eating healthy while going to the grocery store less. Eating on a budget and making the most out of your food is something I’ve helped others navigate for years. Here are some of my top tips:
1. Buy fruits and vegetables with a long shelf life. Common options include: apples, onions, potatoes, garlic, squash, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, radish, and more.
2. Keep certain fruits and veggies refrigerated to last longer. You can extend the shelf life of certain produce at cold temperatures to slow ripening.
3. Use frozen fruits and vegetables. Yes, they are healthy and nutrient dense! Frozen produce is blanched at peak ripeness and frozen to retain its benefits.
4. Freeze what you won’t eat right away, such as loaves of bread, ample leftovers, sauces, herbs, animal and plant proteins, and more.
5. Eat more beans! They are an incredibly cheap, versatile, and nutrient dense form of plant based protein, complex carbohydrates, fiber, and other vitamins and minerals beneficial to physical and mental health. They can be bought dry, canned, or boxed, making them a great shelf stable item to have on hand at any time. They can be served warm or cold in a variety of dishes and paired with a variety of other foods, sauces, herbs, spices, and more.
6. Pantry staples for any day, not just pandemic: oats, nuts and nut butters, grains of choice (such as pasta, rice, quinoa, farro, etc), lentils, beans, dried fruits, olive oil, herbs & spices.
7. Shop based on your preferences and what you know you will use. A stocked kitchen won’t provide you with nutrition if you don’t eat it!
It is not a coincidence that my quarantine grocery shopping suggestions are the same as pre-pandemic times. A balanced diet allows for sustainability and flexibility no matter what life throws at us. This is the ultimate test for us to reflect on longevity and practicality of our food choices or behaviors.
There are other myths that have come about regarding food and groceries in the current circumstances. It is important to be aware of the science, versus hearsay. Why? Because misinformation can sometimes do more harm than good.
Below are common myths vs. truths to navigate food during corona virus:
(Source: Dietitian Connection, https://dietitianconnection.com/covid-19/)
Access to food in our society is a privilege, but everyone deserves the opportunity to properly nourish themselves and their families. If the current circumstances have left you experiencing food insecurity, find local resources near you at www.FeedingAmerica.com, or contact me for more resources. With the overwhelming amount of negative or scary information on the news, there are also some incredible acts of humanity, with several resources people pulled together to help those in need. Remember that this is temporary, and when taken one day at a time we can ease the anxieties of the unknown. Nourishing ourselves to the best of our abilities is one way we can get through this time and come out the other side.
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